Because the beaver isn't just an animal; it's an ecosystem!

The Martinez Beavers

Too Much News

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This morning I have too much news to tell you about. Some days I am scraping the barrel of beaver stories and some days I don’t know where on earth to start. Lets start with this update from Mike Callahan working on his ‘salmon adapted flow devices’ with our friends in Sonomish County Washington. Here’s what he sent last night.

So far so good here in Snohomish County, WA on our Salmonid-Beaver Dam passage project. Today Mike Rustay and I installed the first of three fish-friendly flow devices.

See attached picture.


Today’s site was a large culvert that already had baffles in it to help adult coho salmon migrate upstream to spawn. However, beavers decided the baffles inside the culvert would make great places to dam. they dammed it this spring and it was very difficult for the Snohomish crew to clean it out. Also during the fall and winter high stream flows a lot of woody debris floats into the culvert and gets caught which also creates barriers to fish movement.

 So we needed to keep the culvert unobstructed by beavers, floated debris, and protect the culvert fence to keep from collapsing in the heavy flows. This is a very confined area for a culvert protective fence. So we decided to try to encourage the beavers to dam immediately upstream so they would not dam on the small culvert fence and block fish movement.

 Mike Rustay and I installed a reinforced culvert fence with a salmonid passage. At the same site we also created two diversion dam sites on the two streams that flow into the 8 foot wide culvert. There is minimal water flow this time of year, but with the rains in late fall there are heavy stream flows and a lot of adult coho come up this culvert.

 The reinforced culvert protective fence will keep any debris and all beaver damming outside of the culvert allowing unobstructed adult salmonid movement. We also installed two “diversion dam fences” 10 feet upstream of the culvert fence. These are 6 ft high fence posts with 12″ high fences. They are designed to provide easier, more attractive sites for the beavers to dam than the fence. They will also serve as log and other floating debris debris catchers during high water flows to keep the fence and salmonid passage open. Upstream of these two narrow stream channels are large impoundments which are very productive spawning and rearing areas for coho.

 The culvert fence was outfitted with a One-Way door to allow adult salmon easy passage through the fence on their upstream migration. The One-Way door is made from white PVC pipes. See picture.

 Late this fall when the adult coho come swimming out of the baffled culvert they will be “corralled” by a short fence (not shown in the pic). This corralling fence will funnel them directly towards the fish/wildlife one-way door in the culvert fence. This corralling fence prevents the fish from needing to search for the one-way door. They will swim upstream directly to it and get out into the open water with minimal work. There are also several debris catching fence posts outside the one-way door to help prevent woody or other floated debris from blocking it.

 it was extremely exciting today to see dozens of juvenile coho swimming around the culvert fence! They were 2″-3″ long, eagerly feeding on anything in the water. Hopefully someday these same fish and many others will pass through the one-way door on the culvert protective fence on their way to spawn! Until then, keep feeding and growing! Fingers crossed.

 One down, two more install sites to go over the next two days. Each site will be a different issue with a different device. I’ll keep you posted

Good work Mike and team! I love how thoughtfully these challenges are getting tackled. Personally I want a study saying flow devices actually interfere with salmon passage (instead of just reinforcing the people who assume that they do) before we get to excited about a cure – but I’m happy you are working on this. On a personal note, it is weirdly satisfying to think about Mike and Jake collaborating, since they were the two voices I relied on most heavily for our beaver battle in Martinez.

Now that we’re thinking about full circles, lets enjoy this

OUTDOORS: Beaver help shape habitat

Other than humans, no animal has the ability to control or alter their environment like beavers do. Except when they are living in large natural bodies of water like ponds or lakes, beaver will dam streams to create a pond, or series of ponds. They use this large area of deeper water for protection from predators such as bears or coyotes. It is also used for easy access to their food supply and to transport food and building materials.

 Beaver create a dam by inserting large sticks or limbs vertically in the stream bed then putting smaller ones crosswise. They fill in the gaps with mud, vines and other small sticks or plant material. As water levels rise or the water flows elsewhere, they will raise the level of their main dam or build coffer dams.

  They often dig a network of canals to reach food or to easily transport it back to the main pond. Often a series of dams will create several ponds to give the colony access to more food supply. When the available preferred foods are exhausted, the beaver will abandon their lodge and move on in search of new homes and food.

 Some trout fishermen are fond of beavers because the ponds they create provide the cover and food supply for trout to multiply and grow larger. Usually when hunters, trappers or hikers find a new beaver dam or colony they will make a note to return next spring with their fishing rods in hand. The ponds also create good habitat for ducks, especially wood ducks, and other birds and mammals. 

This is a good start from a state that can be fairly schizophrenic in its beaver policies. The piece doesn’t mention flow devices and goes on to say that beavers damage valuable timber, but its a fairly decent beaver 101.  You can read the whole thing here.

If New York is schizophrenic in its beaver management, this state is usually SOCIOPATHIC. But whatever else they may do, times do change. Even in Alabama. Yes you read that right.

Beaver Pond Offers Myriad Glimpses of Nature.

While the rest of the world is preparing for evening repose, the inhabitants of the pond and preparing to take advantage of the cover of darkness.

The article makes the point that beaver ponds are good places to look for wildlife like alligators and turtles and egrets. Of course it doesn’t actually go so far as to say that they are VALUABLE but its Alabama and we have learned to take what we can get. Great job!

And just in case you think the entire world has transformed into a hazy fog of beaver adoration, lets round out the fair with a little dose of beaver stupid. Sarah Koenisberg of the documentary is in Medford Oregon and sent me an article from the local paper bemoaning some “beaver vandals” that ate up the trees that were carefully planted along the creek bank there. She asked me to find out who to talk to, which I did. Then this larger article emerged and I can see the target list of minds that need changing is longer than I thought.

Beavers chew through Medford river rehab work

 MEDFORD, Oregon — A downtown Medford vandal is systematically taking down a riparian project along Bear Creek that high school kids spent four years turning from a mass of blackberries into perhaps the stream’s healthiest stretch.

 Project leader Jim Hutchins says the vandal and perhaps a partner are sneaking into the 200-yard project area at Hawthorne Park and making off with a tree or bush almost nightly, much to Hutchins’ chagrin.

 “This is what I woke to this morning,” Hutchins says, pointing to a sawed-off stem of an unidentifiable tree. “First they went after the cottonwood, then the alder and now the dogwood. Now I guess anything goes. It’s crazy.”

 “Beaver vandalism,” he sighs.

 Wow. How can folks live in Oregon, so near the beaver conference and Leonard and Lois Houston, in the beaver state and still be so misinformed? I of course wrote Jim right away about wrapping the trees and painting with sand. The article expresses dismay that wrapping trees with chicken wire didn’t work. Beavers are bigger than chickens? Who knew?

Now he wants them relocated.

“It’s not a straight forward thing, but we do have beaver handling procedures,” says Mark Vargas, the ODFW’s Rogue District wildlife biologist.

 “Beavers are a nuisance problem and they cause grief with people wherever they go,” Vargas says.

Ow. It hurts when I slap my forehead that hard. Maybe I should be slapping someone else’s.  Well Jim wrote me back yesterday that he might try my crazy ideas, and I introduced him to Leonard and Lois Houston. Hopefully Medford will get a little smarter, but I’m not holding my breath.

We need some good news after that much fuss. Last night we went beaver watching and were rewarded with out first on-camera look of the three kits foraging together. Usually they are too far apart for catching in the same frame. It was very high tide, so the dam was a soup, but they took advantage of the disarray to do a bit of a deep clean for lost treasures. It is like playing three games of Where’s Waldo at once, trying to keep your eye on all of them, but you should be able to do it.

Lots of whining, and a bit of sibling rivalry! Here’s last years kit (now a yearling) telling this year’s kit he isn’t going to share. I guess being an only child does make you a little selfish!

Was the kit traumatized by this harrowing scrape with his own mortality? Well about 3 minutes later the kit found something good and charged JR when he tried to investigate! I wasn’t lucky enough to get that on film, but I guess Not!

“Take me seriously” – Photo by Heidi